Once Germany are done with the euphoria, they will need to worry about Jerome Boateng’s replacement and what to do about their soft centre.
Sebastian Rudy’s injury was a big setback and if the man slotted in for Sami Khedira doesn’t recover in time, Germany could have a problem. A big one. Because based on what we saw on Saturday, Ilkay Guendogan isn’t the right cover for Toni Kroos. That, in turn, puts the sort of defensive responsibilities on Kroos he isn’t comfortable with.
It was his giving away the ball that led to Sweden taking the lead and that wasn’t the only time Kroos had possession. If it does turn out to be a Germany-Brazil pre-quarter final, the world champions could be exposed by a team that won’t sit deep searching for a route to counter-attack.
I don’t know if Boateng’s suspension is a blessing in disguise. He plays much further up the pitch than a central defender and is often a key component in their attack. But Boateng needs protection from a central midfielder of the kind we haven’t really seen so far in the Germany line-up. Boateng’s first booking was from a cynical challenge and the second followed a tackle of a man who looked desperate.
That Germany still managed to throw bodies in attack showed their desire. They played the way they know best ~ using the width and looking to find men in the box without resorting to too many long balls ~ and would have won comfortably but for Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist and goalie Robin Olsen.
This despite Germany’s attacking players not really being in sync in the way coach Joachim Loew would have liked them to. Thomas Mueller isn’t his usual effective self and that is not helping Germany.
That said, Kroos’ match-winner was absolutely brilliant. Sweden should not have conceded the free-kick in such a dangerous area but it was by playing a short pass that Kroos caused disarray in the defence and doubts in Olsen’s mind. It was virtually the last kick and Kroos still had enough in the tank to produce a free-kick that perfect.
Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia is writing exclusively for Hindustan Times
FIFA World Cup 2018: Soft centre stays a worry for Germany